Jewish World Review July 10, 2003 / 10 Tamuz, 5763
The Future of Iran: Armitage might want to rethink that "democracy" line
Yesterday, July 9, was
the day the Iranian student movement has designated for national demonstrations
against the regime, and a general strike in favor of democracy. Shaken
by weeks of recent protests, and worried about the mounting criticism
from several Western countries, the regime has taken unprecedented steps
to head off a potential showdown with its own people:
- Thousands of political activists, students, and others, have been rounded
up and packed into prisons, subjected to torture, and in some cases murdered.
Children of parliamentarians have been summarily arrested, as have parents
of Iranian democracy advocates living abroad.
Great efforts have gone into ensuring that Iranians cannot communicate
with one another, either by telephone (cells have been shut down) or radio
or television (the U.S.-based independent radio and television stations
have been reporting a new jamming campaign against their satellite broadcasts.
As of late on the night of the 8th, it was impossible to isolate the source
of the jamming). Satellite dishes have been torn down, and smashed in
Ditto for the press. Journalists have been arrested, newspapers have been
closed. In short, everything the regime could do to isolate the Iranian
people from the outside world has been done.
New security forces have been recruited. Lacking confidence in the willingness
of Iranians to beat and kill their own, the regime has brought in Lebanese
Hezbollahi, members of the Badr Brigades from Iraq (where they'd been
dispatched as part of the "insurgency" against American forces),
the usual "Afghan Arabs," and, reportedly, Palestinian toughs.
All reminiscent of the Chinese tactics in Tiananmen Square, where they
imported soldiers from remote regions to suppress the pro-democracy uprising.
For those who believe
that revolution is a test of will, and that a regime willing to use any
amount of terror required to retain power will probably survive, these
are at once ominous and encouraging signs. Ominous, because this regime
does not appear ready to go quietly; encouraging, because the mullahs
are not facing a handful of revolutionaries, but a mass movement.
I have long argued
that the United States could provide the decisive support that would guarantee
success of the democratic revolution. All Iranians, from the top ayatollahs
to the student organizers, believe that America is capable of guaranteeing
the outcome of the conflict, and they are all trying to decipher the American
strategy. Whenever President Bush speaks warmly of the demonstrators,
they are enormously encouraged; whenever some other official typically
from the State Department speaks words subject to many interpretations
(or, worse still, proclaims the current regime "a democracy,"
as Deputy Secretary of State Armitage did in February), it sends a chill
through the hearts of the freedom fighters. Despite the endless barrage
of anti-American rhetoric from the mullahs, they still maneuver to be
able to demonstrate American acceptance of their power, knowing that any
hint of American legitimization of the regime will weaken their opponents.
In Iran, where treachery
has long been the national sport and superstition the bedrock of political
analysis, the people are casting runes and reading entrails, searching
for certainty about the American strategy. Once they know it, they will
act accordingly. If they see clearly, once and for all, that the United
States is serious about regime change in Tehran, the ranks of the opposition
will swell beyond counting. If they conclude that we have betrayed them
to their masters, they will give up the struggle, at least temporarily.
This is yet another reason why a clear American policy is so desperately
needed. And still, the defining document, the long-awaited National Security
Presidential Directive (NSPD) on Iran, gathers mold in the bowels of the
bureaucracy, even though we have declared ourselves at war with the terror
masters since September 12, 2001.
In this confusion,
the mullahs are stalling for time. They believe that if they can ride
the whirlwind until next year, the president will forget foreign policy
and devote all his energies to his reelection. They also believe that
they can bloody us in Iraq, sending scores or even hundreds of body bags
to American shores, eventually sapping our will and sending us home. And
they believe that once they can demonstrate possession of an atomic bomb,
they will become the North Korea of the Middle East, invulnerable to American
They are wrong on
all counts. If this president sees our victory in Iraq threatened by Iranian
sabotage, he will act with the same resolve he has shown since the war
against the terror masters began nearly two years ago. Nothing would spur
him on more than the spectacle of dead American soldiers. And an Iranian
bomb would only add to his urgency, and strengthen the case for American
support of the democratic revolution. The bomb might deter a military
attack, but the doom of the mullahs will not come from the barrel of a
gun. It will come from millions of Iranians in the public spaces of the
major cities, demanding an end to their misery.
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JWR contributor Michael Ledeen is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and author of, most recently, ""The War Against the Terror Masters," Comment by clicking here.
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© 2001, Michael Ledeen